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beach combing obsession, highway 1

There are many things in art that make me quite cross, and some things that make me even a little angry. The popularity of Jeff Koons baffles me and I do not think that I would cross the street to see an exhibition by Tracey Emin. But there is a thing beyond these that pitches me head first into a frenzy and that is the use of the phrase ‘untitled’, as the title of a piece of work. You want me to engage with the work at the very least and you may even want me to consider buying it, and yet you can’t give it the two minutes it would take to think of a title. Then you come across a road called:-


We set off  North on Highway 1, and here for a while, you can assume, unless told otherwise, that the direction will be North. With the Pacific to our left, on what would be our first full day on the Californian coast. It was raining, but in a ‘mellow fruitfulness’ way that softened the edges and reduced the contrast of the world that we cycled through. We liked it, and it had the advantage of being almost a day of no wind. There are a lot of flags in the USA and people have a pride in their own flag and that is a big part of what unites them. Flags are the perfect way to check the wind and they were all limb and unmoving, which was good.

Grey and most beautiful Pacific.

California is just about bankrupt and a happy consequence of this is that roadside ditches are full to overflowing with uncut flowers. Back home, many of these would be an expensive addition to a wedding day bouquet, and here they are growing like weeds.

roadside florist

We wanted to buy almost every property we passed. At the little town of Elk Esther found her perfect home. In any store she knows how to find the most expensive item on display, so there is a good chance of these being the most expensive on the coast for hundreds of miles.

Elk, Highway 1.

Pelicans and climbing.

We ended the day at Little  River and made a guess at the days climbing and were off by a factor of 150%. Coastal riding has a great many ups and downs and you learn to carry as much speed with you into every up.

Little River, Van Damme campground would be our first in a long string of Hiker Biker campsites where we can claw back some of the budget that California has drained from us. $10 or less per night for camping from this arbitrary point and North was something to look forward to.

We did of course blow the budget the next morning with breakfast in the Bay View Cafe in Mendocino in a poor attempt to make early miles by getting away prompt. It was time well spent as the road got busy and the traffic angry. Hooting for being in the left lane to turn left and then just truck after truck too close into Fort Bragg.

Beyond Fort Bragg.

The scale of the profile map is all a bit weird, and the climb of Leggett Hill looks beyond category. It takes you up and away from the coast in one big lactic acid festival of climbing. Pelicans joined us as we started the climb that would bring the total that day to over 5,000 ft. We went into Leggett to one of the ‘World Famous’ drive through Redwood Trees to end the day. “Bikes get a great deal, just $3”, the girl in the booth was cheerful and pleased to see us, but wrong in every possible way in describing the price as good deal. “You charge $5 for cars and that one has three people in it and could fit six, that’s a good deal”. We turned and pedaled away, unable to do a good deal.

Humboldt Redwoods State Park.

Dave Yates touring bike and Redwood.

We camped at Standish-Hickey State recreational Area, a deserted campground and were up early and away. Ahead on the 101 a Bob Cat crossed and then turned to watch as we passed. Magic, and free to those passing quietly on a bike. The sun was out for the first time in a while and we had many miles ahead of avenues lined with Giant Redwoods.

Avenue of the Giants.

How big?

I pondered on the often quoted question “does a tree make a sound when it falls unobserved in the woods”. There were clear signs that over the years several of these  monsters had, and from the look of the dents in the road and around the impact, the truth and philosophical conclusion are way out. We camped at Burlington Campground surrounded by towering Redwoods. The wind gusted overnight and you could hear it far above you from in the tent as it moved from left to right.

Burlington Campground.


Eel River.

mKettle brewing tea.

We continued our Redwood ride for another twenty miles before we parted company. Shown a photo of the area we were in next you would not pick California. We were in grassland and cattle country and forcing our way against a headwind towards Ferndale. We ended a short day in Victorian style at the conservation village. In amongst the Victorian splendour it had a laundromat, and that was essential for all concerned after days of waterproofs, hills and increasingly warm weather.

Main Street, Ferndale.

House, Ferndale.